MARAC/NEA Spring 2015: Seeing the Sights

Boston offers so many interesting sights, it was hard for us to narrow down the tours we could offer during the conference. All of the repository tours are currently full, but there is still room on the three paid tours, so if you’re interested in seeing The Dark Side of Boston, going on a Tipsy Tour, or touring the Sam Adams Brewery, sign up on the MARAC website now!

If you didn’t have a chance to be part of the repository tours, don’t despair! There are plenty of amazing repositories and sights available to the public that can be viewed on your own (even though you may not get a “behind the scenes look”). Below is a highlight of repositories and Boston sites that you can enjoy while visiting:

The Boston Public Library is one of Boston’s gems and is only a 10 minute walk from the Park Plaza hotel. The original Charles McKim-designed building features murals by John Singer Sargent and Puvis de Chavannes, as well as a lovely courtyard with a fountain where lunchtime concerts are held in good weather. Art and Architecture tours are offered free daily, and both the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department in the library display interesting exhibits open to the public: Literary Landscapes: Maps from Fiction and Purloined Letters: Literary Correspondence and Its Unintended Recipients will be on view during the conference. The Courtyard Restaurant in the library has a delightful afternoon tea Wednesdays-Fridays if all of that culture leaves you parched and in need of a tiny delicious sandwich.
The North End is Boston’s oldest neighborhood, now predominantly Italian. It’s a good place to see several important historic spots and also to grab a quick cannoli or have a long and luxurious dinner. There are many tours available, although the neighborhood is small and walkable and you may have more fun exploring on your own. Make sure to see the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church, both of which are stops on the Freedom Trail. If you elect to walk the Freedom Trail, you can follow Boston’s Revolutionary-era history from Boston Common through the North End all the way out to Bunker Hill. Of course, there’s an app for that.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, was the first genealogical society established in the United States. View the beautiful eight-story library and archive located at 99–101 on Newbury Street in Back Bay.
The Mary Baker Eddy Library offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of the founder of Christian Science. Exhibits at the Library include the intriguing Mapparium, a three-story stained glass globe that preserves the political divisions of 1935, the year it was completed. Depending on your perspective, it can be educational, disorienting, gloriously surreal, or all three.

The Christian Science Plaza provides visitors with great scenic vistas. The Library and the Mother Church flank a reflecting pool, fountain, and gardens  – a nice spot to stop and catch your breath after the Mapparium.  

The Congregational Congregational Library and Archives is located in historic Beacon Hill near the Massachusetts State House. The library’s collections date from the 1600s through the twentieth century, and range from manuscripts to relics from Scooby Church in England, including a piece of Plymouth Rock. Visit the reading room on the second floor with windows overlooking Boston’s Granary Burial Ground.

Image: “Congregational Library, Boston MA” by John Phelan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –,_Boston_MA.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Congregational_Library,_Boston_MA.jpg
The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston is housed in a dramatic building overlooking the harbor. It presents consistently excellent and thought-provoking exhibits – When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South will be on view during the conference. While it can be a bit of trek getting there, it’s worth the journey on the Silver Line, and you can reward yourself with a meal in the Seaport District or nearby Fort Point, where many of the city’s best new restaurants have popped up.

There are many, many more wonderful things to see and do in Boston than we can list here. Strike up a conversation with a local at the meeting and they’ll probably have their own recommendations for can’t-miss places! If you’d like to take advantage of the city’s great cultural offerings, you can get an idea of what’s going on by checking the Boston Calendar; discounted tickets to events are available at Bostix booths and online.

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